Rowing Flexibility

– with Sports Physiotherapist Ivan Hooper

Over the next few months, rowers both young and old will be increasing their early morning training. Schoolboy rowing will be in full swing in Term 4 while Masters rowers prepare for the classic Head races.

Rowing is a sport that requires a unique mix of fitness, strength and skill. It requires the athlete to get into challenging positions that demand flexibility. The catch position where the athlete places the blade into the water requires a compression of the hip, thigh to chest. To achieve this position the athlete needs flexibility of the hamstrings, hip flexors and gluteals amongst other muscles.

Catch

The catch pictured above – shins at 90 degrees

Whether young or old, it is very common to see rowers with deficits in flexibility in these key muscle groups. This will have the effect of limiting hip compression. A consequence of this can be the athlete reaching further through the spine to get their stroke length. This places the spine into a weaker position and could lead to overload of spinal structures.

As rowers start to build their training volume, it is important to incorporate regular stretching into the weekly routine. A routine of 10-15 minutes repeated 2-3 times a week should produce gains. Stretches are best done when warm after activity. Hold the stretches for 20-30 seconds and repeat three times on each side. Improving the flexibility of the hamstrings, gluteals and hip flexors will assist in achieving better positions during rowing, helping with both injury prevention and performance.

Below are some stretches for rowers recommended to incorporate into your weekly training routine. If you would like a more thorough assessment of your flexibility and how it relates to rowing our physiotherapy team at QSMC can assist with a musculoskeletal screening.

Hamstrings 

Hold your leg tight in vertical position with both hands. Keep your ankle and foot relaxed. Straighten your knee until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh. If you can fully straighten the knee with the thigh vertical, repeat the stretch while the thigh is closer to your chest.

Alternate Hamstrings – Long 

Lie in a doorway with one leg through the door and the other straight against the edge of the door. Position your hips a distance away from the door so that you feel a mild hamstring stretch. Hold this for up to 5 mins per leg. If your leg gets sore or goes numb, break up the time into smaller blocks.

Gluteals 

Positioned on the ground with one leg behind you and one bent out in front with the knee in line with your trunk, lean forward while keeping your pelvis square to the ground. 

Hip Flexor & Quad – Hip Flexor and Lateral Trunk Extension 

Kneeling with your front shin vertical, tighten your stomach to keep your lower back flat. Tuck your bottom under to tilt your pelvis backwards. Lunge forward so that you feel a stretch in the front of the hip. A variation that an help stretch the outside of the hip and side of your trunk is to add a side bend, with arm over head. The stretch should move to being a bit higher and lateral to the previous stretch.

Quadratus Lumborum

Sitting with the left leg straight and right heel tucked into your groin, place your left hand on your right knee and use this to pull your trunk into rotation. Your shoulders should align with your straight leg. Place your right arm over your head and bend towards your left knee. The stretch should be felt in your lower back.  

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